LABOUR’S new leader Jeremy Corbyn may have much to prove about his wider electoral appeal. But he wasted no time yesterday in making clear he means to claw back Labour support that has defected to the SNP – and to do so on the central issue of opposition to austerity.
Challenging government spending reductions used to be the core raison d’etre of Labour’s appeal to its long-time voters in Scotland where there is notably greater reliance on public spending and public sector employment. But the SNP, particularly under its Left-leaning leader Nicola Sturgeon, has laid claim to this battleground and outflanked Labour.
This is ground that Mr Corbyn, with even more impeccable left-wing credentials than Ms Sturgeon, now means to win back. In eve-of-conference TV interviews he took the fight directly to the SNP, accusing the party of “talking the talk but not walking the walk” in opposing austerity. In a further jibe at the party, he questioned whether the SNP could credibly fight austerity because of the dramatic plunge in North Sea oil revenues. The SNP administration, he argued, had the chance to change Scotland’s schools and hospitals for the better but had failed to do so. “The gap between the richest and the rest in our schools has grown, with children from the most deprived backgrounds less likely to succeed than their well-off classmates.” He further highlighted differences with the SNP, deploying the emotive phrase “flags don’t build houses”.
His central charge is that the SNP had a “headline” of being opposed to austerity, but claimed was also “privatising” ferry operator CalMac, was behind the privatisation of ScotRail, cutting college places and government funding. The SNP countered that the tendering processes for rail and ferry services were in place long before it took power in the Scottish Parliament, and under EU law it was powerless to intervene.
Nevertheless, despite sharing opposition to Trident, Mr Corbyn hopes to rally Scottish supporters back into the Labour camp. Time will tell whether he will succeed. Certainly his message and general demeanour is likely to strike more of a chord in Labour Scotland than any of the Blairite candidates who stood against him in the party’s leadership election.
And there is much to be said for a more vocal and effective opposition in Holyrood. For months polls have pointed to a further surge in SNP support and an even larger majority than the party already enjoys after the Holyrood election next May. A strong opposition is a healthy thing and a Scottish parliament so totally dominated by one party cannot be good for the process of testing legislation and ensuring that it is subject to effective scrutiny.
Down with the kids
How very brave: the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society is seeking help in drawing up a new compendium of dances relevant to the modern era. It is designed to encourage younger people to take up country dancing and, says the society, it “will consider submissions that fuse the genre with pop or rap music”.
This is long overdue. Much of the repertoire has become archaic and unsuited to the modern style of high-energy dancing. And some are downright politically incorrect.
How on earth has The Gay Gordons survived the changes of recent years? Surely the LGBTI Gordons would be a more socially inclusive title? As for Strip the Willow, this has taken on a sinister meaning given the current debate about the state of undress in modern pop videos.
Would-be composers are being encouraged to take a brave and imaginative approach and consider the use of instruments other than fiddles or accordions.
Scottish country dancing may have some way to go to catch up with rap music. How might it adapt to such great rap classics as Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliott, The Humpty Dance by Digital Underground and Juicy by Notorious B.I.G?
Such changes in repertoire would require a radical change in venues and ambience: no longer the unsparing overhead light bulbs of the Aberfeldy Community Hall, but a crowded basement in the more dubious parts of Edinburgh, lit by flashing strobe lighting, the exact location marked only by large muscled bouncers at the doorway. See u there, bro!